H1N1, more commonly known as swine flu is loose in Japan, with nearly 200 cases reported in the Kansai area, which includes Osaka and Kobe. It's strange. First there were a mere four cases found through various precautions in place at Narita Airport, with the patients quarantined and suddenly a huge and rapidly developing epidemic largely among high school students in Kansai.
Now that the pig influenza (as I've heard it called) is here to stay, the government plans to stop onboard inspections at the airports. That's fine; it was a measure that was obviously doomed to failure anyway. But, hey, they tried. Perhaps they should round up all the high school students nationwide and disinfect them.
According to people I've talked to, pharmacies and drug stores are sold out of face masks. Even during the best of times, people wearing face masks are a common sight along city sidewalks or on crowded trains. Right now you can spot them even more frequently and it's starting to look like those of us who eschew such precautions are fast becoming the minority. From what I understand, the masks are useless against the H1N1 virus, which is so tiny it easily passes right through the material in into your nasal passages and mouth. And while I'm not panicking by any means, I did start buying some flu food supplies tonight just in case I end up stuck in my apartment for a week.
Assuming I won't be too hungry or particularly able to stomach my typical fare (champagne, vodka martinis, caviar, oysters, an extra-tender veal imported by personal courier from the Argentinian pampas and, for special occasions, that remarkably delicious French delicacy, the ortolan), I went with low-fat Cup Noodles and Saltine crackers, plus some extra bottled water. I do drink tap water but I usually begin my day with a nice Volvic first thing in the morning. Yuka Honda swears by Volvic, and a name check in an old Cibo Matto song is plenty to make me brand-loyal for life.